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Things to know for your first time shopping in Marrakech Souks

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The souks in Marrakech are unlike anywhere I've ever been to in my life. They were an absolutely incredible experience for me and something I can now tick off of my bucket list. Twisty roads and little alleys full of stalls with canopies hanging over the top; it was quite a culture shock but what an experience! I wrote about how magical it was (here) but there are also a few things that I think it is important to be aware of, just because it's magical doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws. Here are some of my tips for your first visit! 
Hire an official guide
As soon as you go in, you'll see why; it's very overwhelming and a bit of a culture shock so I was so glad we had Sami with us otherwise we would have never found out way out of there! Apart from not getting lost, whilst he was guiding us though labyrinth of little alleys, he stopped off to show us a traditional clay oven hidden behind one of the souks and was able to answer all of our questions along the way. We also found that with him with us, we got hassled far less than when we went back to the square on our own a few days later.
Wear the right clothes
..Saying that I did get groped whilst we were all trailing behind him. I knew dressing appropriately in Morocco was more important than any where I have been to in the past, especially in the souks so I was prepared but I still couldn't believe how bold the men were. I had a culotte jumpsuit on, one that I wear for work sometimes but it was hot, obviously, so I took my jacket off and had my shoulders on show. On two separate occasions guys grabbed my butt as they walked past. The first time it was more of a brushed hand so I wasn't sure but after a full cheek grab the second time, I decided I'd better just put my jacket on. What a difference that made, the rest of our visit was absolutely fine.
You'll Need Cash
As with all markets, its helpful to have cash on you. We got ours outside of the market as there are no cash points once you enter the madness.
It Has A Particular Smell
Before I visited, I read that some of the leather goods can smell so you should sniff them before you purchase, what I didn't expect was to turn a corner and be able to tell that there was a leather stall before I could see it. The hide is soaked in animal excrement to help the dyes stick and even though it is all washed off, the end product is still seriously potent; all part of the experience though!
Shopkeepers Can Be Persistent
The souks in Marrakech aren't your relaxed day at the market, be prepared to be pestered at every stall you walk past. Either avoid eye contact and totally ignore them or say no thank you firmly and they should leave you alone. Once you show an interest in something it's a lot harder to get rid of them, I had one guy follow me quite a long way away from his stall trying to sell me scarf that I was looking at. If you do want to purchase something then haggle! They expect it and nothing has a set price so it is very easy to get what you want for less than half of the original asking price. 

Whilst that is the case for alot, some were totally chilled out; I spotted one guy alseep on the floor in this shop. It was all very strange. 
Take Hand Sanitizer
I've never really been a germophobe but after an afternoon in the market, I wanted to wash my hands. This is especially important if you plan to visit the food stalls in Jemaa El Fna where there will be nowhere to wash your hands before you eat. 
Stay Alert
Kids on the street get suspiciously close and when you are not watching out for them; bikes carts and who knows what else are whizzing past. It also seemed that bikes don't have horns - all of the kids just made weird noses as they passed us. 

With so much to take in and like all markets, it's important to take a bag that fastens properly and try hold on to your stuff. I was pleased to have my Longchamp under my arm where I could see the zip and kept my camera around my neck with my hand on it at all times. 
Take It Slow
And one last thing to know before visiting the souks; they're absolutely amazing but very overwhelming. Remember to go slowly so you can take in all the sights and smells and get a proper experience! 

*Big thanks to Visit Morocco for inviting me along on this trip

How To wear Gingham without looking like a little school girl

Monday, 10 July 2017

Gingham is everywhere lately but when I initially started to look online for some pieces for myself, my gingham dress search brought up photos of those horrible summer dresses that we had to wear back in primary school. I moved on from my dress idea pretty quickly deciding that it was too much material for such a bold print anyway but I still wanted to give gingham a go so that's what inspired me to put together this post. As someone who doesn't really do 'putting together an outfit' very well I wanted to find some simple ways to work gingham into an outfit.

The Bikini
If you follow my insta stories, you might have seen I went a little bit mad with the shopping last week. I hardly buy anything all year around but there's always one week in the summer where I unintentionally go crazy and buy everything. I spotted both the top and bottoms of this cute little bikini on the sale rail in my size (?!) and I had to have it - I get all of my favourite bikinis from River Island so it was bound to happen at some point - I actually ended up getting another one the day after! I lived in my other crochet bikini last year because it was so comfy - all that elastic makes a difference!

The Shoes
A pair of gingham shoes wasn't something I thought I was going to come across but lo and behold, Ego shoes always have something fun going on. These Lizzie lace ups come in black, blue or red gingham and I think they are pretty cool. I was drawn to the red ones and when they got here, I realised why - they make me feel like some kind of modern day Dorothy. The ribbons have been doubled over so when you tie them in a bow, you actually get four loops instead of two, I thought it was worth mentioning because I really like the effect its give!

I wore these with a simple black t-shirt dress, again from Primark that has become one of my favourite pieces. I had a bit of a panic when I put it in the washing after my Menorca trip and didn't see it again for a month but my mum put it back in my room last week so I put it on straight away for a trip to Westfield where I shot this picture - not that any of that back story matter because you cant even see the dress in this photo anyway! I love it when I find a totally black outfit because it means I can make my shoes a little bit more of the focus point. I also wore the same dress with my new furry sliders.
gingham shoes

The Ruffle Top
When it comes to tops, I usually stick to very simple cropped t-shirt or vest top shapes - I have been known to buy the same top in seven quite a few different colours. Big ruffley tops like these are really popular right now but completely out of my comfort zone so when Quiz invited me to the #LostInSummer party to launch their new range of occasion dresses and let me pick a piece; I wasnt feeling a bodycon dress so I went for this top. Turns out I really like it on. 

As you might have seen, I wore it for Taste of London a couple of weeks ago with my favourite Primark shorts, Primark sunglasses and another first, my first pair of Teva sandals aka the most comfortable sandals I've ever worn - trainer level comfort guys. 
gingham top

How are you wearing gingham this season?

Think Menorca is Boring? Think again

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

When I mentioned that I was going to Menorca, a lot of people asked me why? Whilst Menorca is the lesser known of the Balearic islands and has a completely different feel to its party sibling, it's still got that typical island vibe with palm trees and white houses; it's a much more chilled out place to be. The island is quite and it's relaxing but that certainly doesn't make it boring; I was visiting with Traverse and a big group of influences who made sure of that!
Menorca sunset
If you want to relax then Menorca is perfect, but if you like to explore a little bit more, then there is loads to do! Here are some of the things we got up to in between lazy days by the pool:

Visit The Cave Bar
This is one of the most incredible bars that I've ever been to so if your looking for something really impressive, I would really recommend that you visit Cova d'en Xoroi. So what makes this bar so impressive? Well, it's built into the side of a cliff. It's not a party bar (because it was still bright with sunshine until about 9pm) although they were playing some pretty good music. Don't expect a nightclub; instead you'll want to be outside on one of the terraces watching the sunset with a glass of fizz.
Cova d'en Xoroi
Cova d'en Xoroi

Explore The Beaches
With the Mercury hitting 30 degrees in May, the sea is the place to be and with over 100 beaches you're never too far from the clean blue, water that surrounds the island. We didn't get any time to visit a beach in our busy itinerary but it was something we were all very sad to miss. We saw quite a few of them on our journeys around and each one was different; some big touristy, some small hidden cove types, most not very busy at all. One afternoon, whilst the photographers were doing their thing up on a rock, a few of the others and I spent 20 minutes walking in the clear waters of a rocky red beach and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Be sure to give yourself at least one beach day if you visit Menorca.

Glass Bottom Boats
With the clear water and the wonderful weather in Menorca, a boat ride is a really enjoyable thing to do in the afternoon. You can catch a yellow catamaran from Mahon harbour and for €12.50 you get an hour on board with an explanation played over the speakers as you sail by. As lovely as it is sitting on the top deck with the wind in your hair, the middle deck has shade and a shop to buy an ice cream or a drink and below the water, there is also a glass bottom so we spent some time downstairs too watching the fish swim by.

Go kayaking
This blog is turning me into a little advernturere - I've experienced so many new things since I took up travel and I did another one whilst I was in Menorca! It was my first time ever kayaking and although I was a little nervous having never done it before, it was loads of fun and I can totally see why people enjoy it. With two guides and a boat following along too, we spent an hour in the turquoise waters exploring caves, stopping off for a little bit of snorkeling and eating crisps that the guides had brought for us! I returned back to land feeling really exhausted good about myself - I had had a fun morning, done something completely new and come away feeling like I had done a little bit of exercise as well.
Thanks for the photo Steve!

Experience The Gin Culture
We made a visit to a gin distillery which involved seeing the way they process the alcohol and lots of free samples - obviously we had to try all of the different flavours so this place is a must for a gin lover! Whilst I am not actually that into my gin I did love the Granizado de pomada (aka a lemon gin slushie) which we got from a ice cream shop in Mahon; delicious and very refreshing on a hot day!
Granizado de pomada
Granizado de pomada

Relax
Like I said, there is lots of stuff to do but as someone who usually gets dreads the through of spending the whole day by the pool, Menorca was pretty enticing. It is a wonderful place to just chill out and I really enjoyed doing so there. One of my favourite days of the trip was a lazy one by the pool. We popped out for lunch but it was mostly spent floating around on a giant blow up ice cream. There was some of real ice cream involved too.
menorca Ice cream
Menorca
Menorca Paella

*Big thanks to Traverse & Visit Spain for hosting me on my trip

5 Things To Know Before Your First Time At Taste Of London

Monday, 26 June 2017

Taste of London happens twice a year and as a massive foodie, it's one of those things I have always wanted to go to. I've never had time in the past but now that I do, I couldn't turn down an invitation from Currys. It was the week of the London heatwave so we seriously had the perfect weather for artisan ice cream and drinking champagne on a deck chair. With two VIP tickets, Georgia and I spent the whole day stuffing our faces.
Smile girls friends gingham
As I had never been before, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it was a food festival but I didn't understand buying a ticket to go in and then spending more money on food. Now however, I totally get it and would definitely go again. It's an awesome day out; and if you've never been before, I'm hoping that these little tips will make your first visit to taste of London the best it can be!

It's only open for 4 hours at a time
Sometimes my OCD comes in handy. I was adamant we were there for opening and lucky we were because by 4pm they were closing down for the day slot. They open again later on in the evening but there's a no re-entry policy so you have to pay £15 if you want to get back for that. Make the most of your time there because for Georgia and I, after factoring in half and hour champagne break and a 45 minute cooking class, it absolutely flew.
Champange in london
Taste cards don't buy products, just food
Our VIP tickets came with £20 Taste credit which is a great reason to get the more expensive ticket. 
These cards can be used to buy dishes which range roughly from £4 - £9, from any of the restaurant stands. Perfect for your time there but there were also lots of stands that were just selling food products to take home - Georgia wants to buy some Pots & Co. & I wanted some cookie dough but neither of the stands took Taste cards as payment so bring cash if you want to buy.
rustic wedding cake london
You don't need to spend any money
As I said, we went into to taste with £20 credit card each in our back pockets and.. we came our with the same. We decided to look at every stall before we decided which one the buy from but by the time we had been around the whole festival we were totally stuffed on free samples and couldn't even think about buying a full sized dish.
Make Friends With Stand Holders
Turns out, people are happy to give things away to people they like. Georgia was the perfect person for this because she just talks and talks and makes friends with anyone. Whilst it was pretty annoying when the lady from the cheese asked her 24 questions and she stood and gave an honest, thought out answer for each; Georgia redeemed herself when she made friends with both the Pots & Co (they gave use 4 pots when they weren't aloud to take our cards) and Hippea people who gave us loads of free products, that people next in the line were paying for. 
Hippeas
Go Hungry & Try Everything!
Seriously, don't eat before hand; there are so many new and exciting foods to try that you'll be angry with yourself if you even have breakfast. Make the most of the opportunity and try everything that you can! We got to try all sorts of new foods along the way and some were actually really delicious.  We did a cooking class at the end of the day and both of use were a bit too tired but we ended up making my favourite dish of the day and leaving with a new signed cook book that we won! 
 
Have you been to Taste Of London before?
*Huge thanks to Currys for providing me with tickets.

Check Your Pet For Parasites

Monday, 19 June 2017

So I know this post isn't as relevant to my blog as it was last year (when I was much more lifestyle) but my babesiosis posts got so much traffic that I figured people must be finding them useful.

Molly turns 5 this year and I honestly can’t tell you how much she has changed our life. She cheers everyone up and brings us all together; and she’s always there at the door to greet me, whether I've just popped to the shops or I'm just arriving home from the airport in the middle of the night. She is a huge part of our life, and so a pet should be!

Although I love her like mad, with my anxiety I really worry about her. Did I shut the front door properly? She hasn't been to the toilet yet! Why has she been sleeping so much today?! All sorts of crazy things run through my head when it comes to her, I can imagine this is what having a child is like.
Check pet parasites
Check pet parasite
Whilst I sit and pick twigs and leaves out of her fur after a walk, one thing that I don't often think about is what parasites she could be picking up on her walks.

A survey of over 1000 dog owners nationwide carried out by  Pet Parasite Action  has found that while 85% of us happily hug our dogs (we don't leave her alone more like), most dog owners are unaware of which parasites present the greatest danger to their pet or their family.

So please just take this as a little reminder from me: Remember to get your pet checked over by a vet every once in a while and ask them about a simple way to help protect your pet against parasites inside and out.
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